Changes to Kindle Affiliate program may kill free ebooks

Have you had success promoting your book for free on Amazon? New changes to the affiliates program has some folks in the ebook world doing a double-take. The new restrictions state that you will forfeit all sales for the month if one of two conditions are met:

  • At least 80% of all Kindle eBooks ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links are free Kindle eBooks
  • 20,000 or more free Kindle eBooks are ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links

Those numbers seem to set a high bar and if you read between the lines, it appears that the intent is to stop some websites from advertising free ebooks while reaping dollars from advertising on their own site. Through that lens, it seems fair. However, I think that Amazon may have moved too quickly without considering the full picture.

Let’s say I have a new book coming out and it’s my first that is getting a lot of great advance reviews, a good marketing plan is already in place, there’s a lot of hype and people are excited to read it. To leverage that, I decide to release my previous novel that didn’t get so much exposure for free in order to amp up the excitement. If I time it incorrectly, let’s say my new novel releases in the last couple days of the month, there’s a possibility that all of those free books I released could wipe out the earnings on my new book.

Or let’s consider that in general, people will take more of a free thing than something they have to pay for. So my new novel comes out, the sales are great, however I’ve also released the first book in the series for free. Using the simple consumer economics equation FREE > PAID, I still may end up losing all of my money if I sell 200 copies of the new book and give away 800 copies of the first in the series in one month. That sucks.

To further complicate things, this blog points out that it gets even worse. Let’s say you go to Amazon by following a link from my website to download your free copy of my book. While there, you see some other free books that you figure, what the hell, I’ll check them out. Those books, even though I never linked to them and you never clicked on them from my site, will count against me too!

Hopefully this week Amazon will address some of the concerns of the community in this coming week, if not, the idea of free promotional materials may be dead, at least in the Kindle market.